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On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her older sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching Cecilia is their housekeeper's son Robbie Turner, a childhood friend who, along with Briony's sister, has recently graduated from Cambridge. By the end of that day the lives of all three will have been changed forever. Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they had never before dared to approach and will have become victims of the younger girl's scheming imagination. And Briony will have committed a dreadful crime, the guilt for which will color her entire life. In each of his novels Ian McEwan has brilliantly drawn his reader into the intimate lives and situations of his characters. But never before has he worked with so large a canvas: In "Atonement "he takes the reader from a manor house in England in 1935 to the retreat from Dunkirk in 1941; from the London's World War II military hospitals to a reunion of the Tallis clan in 1999. "Atonement" is Ian McEwan's finest achievement. Brilliant and utterly enthralling in its depiction of childhood, love and war, England and class, the novel is at its center a profound-and profoundly moving-exploration of shame and forgiveness and the difficulty of absolution.
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Atonement is Ian McEwan's ninth novel and his first since the Booker Prize-winning Amsterdam in 1998. But whereas Amsterdam was a slim, sleek piece, Atonement is a more sturdy, ambitious work, allowing McEwan more room to play, think and experiment.
We meet 13-year-old Briony Tallis in the summer of 1935, as she attempts to stage a production of her new drama The Trials of Arabella to welcome home her elder, idolised brother Leon. But she soon discovers that her cousins, the glamorous Lola and the twin boys Jackson and Pierrot, aren't up to the task, and directorial ambitions are abandoned as more interesting preoccupations come onto the scene. The charlady's son Robbie Turner appears to be forcing Briony's sister Cecilia to strip in the Fountain and sends her obscene letters; Leon has brought home a dim chocolate magnate keen for a war to promote his new "Army Amo" bar; and upstairs Briony's migraine-stricken mother Emily keeps tabs on the house from her bed. Soon, secrets emerge that change the lives of everyone present...
The interwar upper-middle-class setting of the book's long, masterfully sustained opening section might recall Virginia Woolf or Henry Green, but as we move forward--eventually to the turn of the 21st century--the novel's central concerns emerge, and McEwan's voice becomes clear, even personal. For at heart, Atonement is about the pleasures, pains and dangers of writing, and perhaps even more, about the challenge of controlling what readers make of your writing. McEwan shouldn't have any doubts about readers of Atonement: this is a thoughtful, provocative and at times moving book that will have readers applauding.--Alan StewartReview:
"The engrossing new novel by the winner of the 1998 Booker Prize "hauls a defining part of the British literary tradition up to and into the 21st century." -Geoff Dyer, "The Guardian""It is rare for a critic to feel justified in using the word "masterpiece," but Ian McEwan's new book really deserves to be called one..."Atonement "is a work of astonishing depth and humanity... This novel really is worthy of the Booker." "-The Economist""The narrative, as always with McEwan, smoulders with slow-burning menace. the book is magically readable and never has McEwan shown himself to be more in sympathy with the vulnerability of the human heart." "-The Sunday Times""McEwan is a consistently entertaining storyteller, giving good weight right up until the final page. Even by his exacting standards his latest novel is extraordinary. His trademark sentences of sustained eloquence and delicacy, which have sometimes over-rationalized the evocation of emotion, strike a deeper resonance in "Atonement"." "-The Times"
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